Apple, Beats, and Black America

John Herrman, writing for The Awl:

Anyway, has anyone noticed that the loud and visceral reaction to Apple’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of Beats, the headphone and music service company, is kind of racist?

Clearly, some of the reactions may be racially-tinged, but the ones cited by Herrman seem dubious to me. Most of the head-scratching I’ve seen — including my own — is no different than if Apple were purportedly buying, say, Bose or Harman Kardon, for $3 billion.

Apple’s previous biggest acquisition was NeXT, all the way back in 1996, for $400 million. (It’s worth noting that $400 million was an enormous sum of money to Apple in 1996, and $3.2 billion represents just 2 percent of the company’s cash today, but still.) Tim Cook has long said Apple isn’t opposed to large acquisitions, but they’ve never made one. And Apple doesn’t have sub-brands. Apple is the opposite of a conglomerate. It’s new territory for Apple, regardless of any racial component.

If anything, as Micah Singleton argues at The Daily Dot, Beats’s brand stature among black Americans might help explain why this deal makes sense for Apple: 73 percent of black smartphone owners in the U.S. are on Android. Beats has brand appeal that Apple does not.

The other thing Beats has that Apple wants: its relationships in the entertainment industry. $3.2 billion? I still don’t know about that. But I’m no longer confused about what Beats has that Apple would want.

Friday, 9 May 2014